Interview: Alexis Michelle Might Just Be the Ultimate Theatre Queen of RuPaul's Drag Race

Alexis just appeared on RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 8.

By: Jul. 28, 2023
Interview: Alexis Michelle Might Just Be the Ultimate Theatre Queen of RuPaul's Drag Race

Even before her first appearance on Season 9 of RuPaul's Drag Race, there has been no question that Alexis Michelle is a Broadway-loving queen. The NYC native brought that same inner theatre kid energy to the stage in All Stars 8, which wrapped up just last week on Paramount+. 

As a University of Michigan graduate, much of Alexis' drag has been influenced by her musical theatre roots, and perhaps this season has been the greatest showcase of her reverence for some of Broadway's most beloved divas. This season saw runway references to Norma Desmond and the Witch from Into the Woods, as well as a killer rusical patter song nod to Joan Crawford and a Snatch Game tribute to the great Bea Arthur.

Alexis checked in with BroadwayWorld to chat more about her background in theatre, current Broadway inspirations, and more!

I want to start by talking about, "If You Want My Apples". What was the inspiration for that song?

When we were prepping for All Stars, we didn't know what the season was gonna look like, but we knew we were to prepare a minute-long talent. When I thought about everything I wanted to do in that one minute... I knew I wanted to sing, I wanted to show a sense of humor, and I wanted to show a sense of movement. So I immediately thought about "Let Me Entertain You" from Gypsy. I even checked on the rights to the music to see if it was something that I could do on the show. But in talking with my longtime friend and musical collaborator, composer Brandon James Gwynn, he said, "I'll make you an original. It'll be just like it, and then it'll be ours and we can put it out and people can enjoy it."

So it actually started with Brandon writing "If You Want My Apples" and then turned into him starting to develop a few original musical theater songs that sound like old trunk songs from Golden Age musicals. We've actually got a new song out now. It sounds like a throwback, but it really captures the essence of the power of drag and acts as a tonic to the insanity being targeted at drag right now. 

And you also collaborated on your recent Joe's Pub show, right?

I had filmed Season 9 of Drag Race in 2016 and knew that it would be premiering in 2017. So ahead of the premiere we started building our first cabaret show together. And since then, we've done a couple dozen performances, at least, maybe more. In coming together, it was really an amazing, symbiotic relationship being born. We speak the same gay language- the same theatrical language. 

And it seems like you've been making your rounds across the city for years now!

We've played 54 Below. We've played Club Cumming. We've played places out of town together in New Orleans and really all over. Joe's Pub has been a long time dream of mine. 

I heard amazing things about it.

I was heavily inspired by the late 60s downtown Barbra Streisand start and similarly in those years, TV variety specials. It was really a tribute to the kind of powerhouse women who have always inspired me to want to pursue a career in drag. 

Is there a plan for more? 

Yes, absolutely. We had two incredible, vibrating sold out shows. We'll definitely be doing more.  

As a kid, what were your creative outlets and when did like performing become the thing for you?

Interview: Alexis Michelle Might Just Be the Ultimate Theatre Queen of RuPaul's Drag Race
Photo Credit: Kat Hannessey

Even before I started performing, I think I caught the bug because my favorite movies were The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Grease, Annie... and gauging from my age, you know, which Annie I'm talking about. The only one! That movie in particular had a lot to do with who I am as a performer. There was something about Annie, that cast... there is something about each of those performers that lives within me!

I think that a lot of people can probably relate with that.

I have had a lot of dance training and the way that I move my body in drag is really heavily derived from influences like Ann [Reinking] and becoming more familiar with the Fosse vocabulary. Seeing the current revival of Chicago when I was a freshman at LaGuardia High School was also formative. I had already seen Fosse several times on Broadway, but seeing Chicago really cemented things. It was the first time I saw a choreographer's work that spoke to me in the deepest way. And that's been as formative in my theatrical movement sense and in my drag movement sense as anything. 

And of course, I cannot talk about my theatrical history without talking about seeing the original production of Into the Woods when I was five years old. Seeing Bernadette Peters live was mind blowing as a little kid. And again, what an iconic cast. It's really lucky that that was captured and offered to the masses in posterity.

So you went to LaGuardia and then you went on to get your BFA at Michigan? 

I spent my first two years of high school at LaGuardia. While I met a lot of fabulous and like-minded folks, I wanted really intensive focus on pursuing theater, so I went to Interlochen [Center for the Arts], where I had spent four summers already. I finished high school in northern Michigan, up in the woods. And then from there I went to Ann Arbor and I studied musical theater at University of Michigan. 

And what was that experience like for you? 

The time of my life. Going to Interlochen was life-changing in meeting other people who were as passionate and as focused on the performing arts as I was. It was really an eye-opening experience, and some of those friends are still in my life now. I mean, my most noteworthy cast I can give you, just as an example, was I played 'Bernardo' to Santino Fontana's 'Riff', to Michael Arden's 'Tony'.


Yeah. And then going on to University of Michigan after that, similarly, I just found more of my tribe. While he didn't start it, the program that Brent Wagner built was really an incredible foundation for so many people storming the musical theater now. And that legacy continues. Now it's under the amazing stewardship of Michael McElroy and so many other incredible educators. It taught me a lot about professionalism, preparation, and gratitude.


A post shared by Alexis Michelle (@alexismichelleofficial)

You live in New York now... I assume that you get to see a lot of theatre.

I do. I'm so lucky. I'm very, very grateful to get to see so much theatre.

What's the last thing that you saw that inspired you? 

Lots of incredible things! I was really, really moved by Wolf Play at MCC. It really grabbed me, and when it was done, I said, "No, no, no more! Keep going!" Looking back a little further, the piece that has stayed with me every day since I saw it was Ain't No Mo'.  It was simultaneously the deepest, darkest, and funniest thing I've seen. I bow down to the entire cast and to Jordan Cooper. I hope somebody is turning that into a film,  because the entire world needs to see that piece. 

And I've seen the current revival of Chicago dozens of times, but getting to go see Jinkx Monsoon in her Broadway debut on her opening night was an experience I'll never forget. I haven't felt the roof blown off the top of a theater like that since I saw Heather Headley at the Palace in Aida. And what I heard from lots of friends and supporters was that it had that energy for her entire run, which is just amazing. 

If Broadway came calling, is being in a show something you would consider for yourself?

Consider?! That's always been my biggest, longest dream. That dream is very much still alive and something I'm still pursuing. There's a handful of shows running that I see myself in, and I'm sure there's lots of shows around the bend that I don't even know about that I see myself in. 

Is there a dream role?

Well, if we're talking about things that are running...  I would love to manifest a run as Madam Morrible! And I would step into any track in Chicago. I would even play the ghost light! Since childhood, I've wanted to play Ms. Hannigan in Annie, and I've wanted to play Tevye and Fiddler on the Roof. 

Very different characters!

I will say, I got to see To Wong Foo, that Douglas Carter Beane is developing. I feel a  particular spirit animal connection to Miss Vita Boheme. And so as that continues to find its legs and its life, I hope that I will be able to help interpret it. 

And until then...

Well, I've got other pop music out that I collaborated on with 808 Annie and Mason Rose and those things are all available to stream. And stay tuned for more entertainment, theater, on camera... and I'm also very passionate about cooking, so keep your eyes peeled for me in the cooking space!

Also can’t wait to tour with Witch Perfect again this fall. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever gotten to do and working with Tina Burner, Scarlet Envy and Blake Allen is pure joy. Tina does Disney villain songs, Scarlet does jazz arrangements of pop favorites and I do iconic Broadway material! Get your tickets now: 


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